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Silicon Photonics 2014

yole siphv3 si-photonics-product-roadmap june 2014
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Icone flyer Silicon Photonicsv1Beyond all of the hype and tumult, market drivers and technological developments are converging to ensure a bright future for Si photonics.


Big data is getting bigger by the second, and transporting it with existing technologies will push the limits of power consumption, density and weight. Yole Développement analysts are convinced that photons will replace electrons, and that Si photonics will be the mid-term platform to assist this transition.

Si photonics offers the advantages of silicon technology: low cost, higher integration, more embedded functionalities and higher interconnect density. It also provides two other key advantages:
1. Low power consumption: particularly when compared to copper-based solutions, which are expensive and require high electrical consumption.
2. Reliability: especially important for data centers, where a typical rack server’s lifespan is two years before replacement.

Back in 2006, VOA were the market’s first Si photonics products. Today, there are still a few Si photonics products on the market (i.e. VOA, AOC and transceivers from Luxtera, Kotura/Mellanox and Cisco/Lightwire) but big companies (i.e. Intel, HP and IBM) are close to realizing silicon photonics products. Yole Développement also sees big OEMs such as Facebook, Google and Amazon developing their own optical data center technology in partnership with chip firms (such as Facebook with Intel).

In this report Yole Développement shows that, in the short-term, silicon photonics will be the platform solution for future high-power, high-bandwidth data centers. Silicon photonics chips will be deployed in high-speed signal transmission systems, which greatly exceed copper cabling’s capabilities, i.e. for data centers and high-performance computing (HPC). As silicon photonics evolves and chips become more sophisticated, we expect the technology to be used more often in processing tasks such as interconnecting multiple cores within processor chips to boost access to shared cache and busses.

Analysts also analyzed silicon photonics’ chances of being used for telecom, consumer, medical and biosensors applications, compared with competing technologies.


Yole SiPhv3 Si-Photonics-product-roadmap June 2014



Yole Développement estimates that almost US$1B has been spent in the past three years on Si photonics companies’ acquisitions.
Not surprising, considering that silicon photonics is seen as the optical technology that will leverage future bottlenecks for interconnects in data centers and HPCs at short-term.

The main motivations for acquisitions are:
  • To handle increasing traffic in data centers
  • To strengthen a company’s portfolio in 40GB and 100GB optical engines
Acquisitions are generally made by module/system makers as a means of enlarging their technologies portfolio, since this is a faster, cheaper route than R&D investments. We also see big players such as Intel taking both approaches (acquisitions and R&D), while others have decided not to invest in silicon photonics since they think future designs will be accessible via foundry services. In fact, many IC foundries have started proposing Si photonics wafer foundry services, so this could create additional acquisition opportunities in the near future.
Yole SiPhv3 Sampling-of-silicon June 2014


Silicon photonics is an exciting field that mixes optics, CMOS, MEMS and 3D stacking technologies. Over the past several years, it’s become clear that some technical choices will be better than others for successful commercial development:
  • Light source is a big integration challenge. As silicon laser is probably years away from realization, the different approaches are likely to be either attached laser (i.e. Luxtera) or (InP) wafer-to-wafer/die-to-wafer bonding, followed by post-processing (i.e. Intel or Leti).
  • Yole Développement has also seen a shift from monolithic integration for electronic/photonic-to-hybrid integration, since critical dimensions are very different. Today, the favored approach seems to be two-chip hybrid integration (the Cu-pillar from STMicroelectronics, for example), since semiconductors’ and photonics’ critical dimensions are likely to be at least one order of magnitude different.
  • The fiber choice: multi-mode versus single mode is also on the table.
Silicon photonics is a business opportunity for different player types: OSATs, MEMS firms, semiconductors companies, etc., because it involves different challenges for packaging, optical alignment and electronics integration. The need for very diverse technologies creates a need for different packaging/micro-machining/manufacturing approaches.
Yole SiPhv3 Si-Photonics-supply-chain June 2014



In this report, Yole Développement analysts forecast the Si photonics market for four different applications: HPC, future-generation optical data centers, telecom and others (including sensors, medical and consumer).

They looked at the following modules/devices: transceivers (for AOCs) and embedded optics (from mid-board optics to interposers to intra-chip interconnects), and forecasts have been calculated in US$M, millions of units and wafer starts. They estimate that the silicon photonics device market will grow from around US$25M in 2013 to more than US$700M in 2024, at a 38% CAGR. In 2018, emerging optical data centers from big Internet companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) will trigger this market growth.

Non-datacom/telecom will only have a small portion of market value since these applications are still far from market maturity. However, we’re at a turning point where the market is increasing again and Intel, which is very active in this field, could contribute to a quick ramp-up of Si photonics.
Yole SiPhv3 Si-Photonics-market-forecast June 2014


  • Updated industrial status and supply chain for silicon photonics
  • Updated forecast through 2024
  • Silicon photonics players’ supply chain description
  • Packaging and assembly challenges
  • “Real” products case study (reverse engineering and reverse costing)

Yole Développement’s Silicon Photonics report provides:

  • An understanding of current key technical challenges for silicon photonics’ building blocks, including packaging
  • An overview of R&D/ tools/materials/devices/system players’ activities and supply chain
  • A forecast of the silicon photonics market in US$ value, units and wafers by application, through 2024
  • A description of silicon photonics applications
  • A summary of the major moves, transactions and mindsets of silicon photonics players
  • A “real” product cost analysis: Molex AOC

Table of contents

About the authors 3

Why this report? 4

Key features of the report 5

List of companies cited in the report 6

What is new compared to 2012 release 7

What we got right, what we got wrong 8

Executive Summary 9

2012-2014 Breaking news in Si Photonics 37

Rationale for Si Photonics 63

> Why, when, how?

Si Photonics building blocks 74

> Overview
> VCSELs issues vs. Si photonics

Laser source integration 86

Photonic interposers to intra-chips 95

> Different architectures
> Examples

Packaging & integration challenges 108

> The different approaches
> Players positioning
> Technology roadmap

2013-2024 Si Photonics market forecast    123

> Markets description
> Forecast in US$M
> Forecast in units
> Forecast in wafers

Applications description 131

> Datacenters & HPC
> Telecom
> Consumer
> Others

Players 163

> Business models
> Supply chain

Molex AOC case study: reverse engineering & cost structure 225

Financial analysis 237

Transactions & investments in Si photonics

Conclusions 244

Appendices 246



Companies cited

 3S Photonics
 Alcatel Lucent
 Altis Semiconductor
 AMS Technologies
 Avago Technologies
 CEA Leti
 Chiral Photonics
 DAS Photonics
 EFFECT Photonics
 Fraunhofer HHI

 Freescale Semiconductor
 Ghent University
 IHP Microelectronics
 Georgia Tech
 HP Labs
 III-V labs
 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
 OneChip Photonics
 Photline Technologies
 Rice University
 Rockley Photonics
 Sandia National Labs
 Skorpios Technologies
 SUN Microsystems
 SUSS MicroTec
 TE Connectivity
 Tyndall University
 u2t Photonics
 UC Berkeley
 University of Colorado at Boulder
 University of Minnesota
 University of Southampton
 University of Stanford
 VLC Photonics
 Wentworth Laboratories
 XiO Photonics
and many more.



  • 2013-2024 silicon photonics market forecast in US$M, units and wafers
  • Applications description, with focus on data centers and HPCs
  • Description of silicon photonics’ building blocks and main challenges
  • Focus on packaging/assembly challenges
  • Supply chain description for major players
  • Molex/Luxtera AOC reverse costing analysis
  • Financial analysis
  • Analysis of technical choices and roadmap
  • Analysis of the opportunities for non-photonic players, such as packaging houses, MEMS companies and IC companies<